Holiday Greetings for Less

We all like to receive holiday greetings … but sending them? Not so much. Traditional cards and letters take time and money. But thanks to new Web sites and tools, plus your own creativity, you can make merry for free -- and skip the trip to the post office. Cheers!

Put Words Into Action!
This year, send your greetings up close and personal, in a holiday mini-video. Thanks to easy-to-use gadgets like Flip camcorders and Aiptek pocket cams, videos are now easy to make. Your iTouch and some cell phones work just as well too. Or if your computer has a camera, you can shoot it right from there. Blogger David Spark of Spark Minute recommends the free site Tokbox to send your video. You can easily set up an account and send as many greetings as you want, all for free.

Tips: Check for sufficient lighting and keep the greeting between 10 and 30 seconds. If you’re providing a complete update, limit it to three minutes. Think about shooting in an offbeat or funny location and make sure the footage isn’t shaky.

Say It With Music
Send the gift of song along with your holiday hellos. It can be a contemplative classical piece or a lively, toe-tapping jingle. You could email a single song or links to all your favorites, suggests Heather Sokol, who blogs at Inexpensively. Amazon offers free downloads of five classics, including “The Nutcracker Suite” and “The Messiah,” performed by world-class orchestras. To hear some thrilling vocals, give a listen to the Web site Feels Like Christmas, with artists like Sixpence None the Richer performing “Angels We Have Heard on High,” and the seriously hip a cappella group Tonic Sol-fa performing their rendition of “Joy to the World.” All downloads are properly licensed and free.

Elf Yourself
Thanks to the Web site Elf Yourself by Office Max, you can finally find out what you’d look like as an elf -- and so can all your friends. This hilarious site lets you upload family faces (up to five) and pair each with one of four dances (disco, hip-hop, classic, country) complete with music. Think of an elf with your face hustling under a disco ball. You can post the 30-second spot on Facebook or email it to everyone on your list -- completely free.

Send an E-letter
Buying bordered paper at a stationery store, addressing all of those envelopes, making a trip to the post office for stamps: By the time you’ve finished all these chores, you don’t have the time or energy to actually write your annual catch-up letter! Here to help? The Web site My Web Letter. You can choose from among six Christmas and Hanukkah templates, write your letter and easily upload photos in it, then email it to as many friends as you want -- all for free. Your customized greetings can also be shared via Facebook. Expecting moms: This site also offers new baby templates.

Send a Flavor of the Season
It’s the perfect time of year to share a favorite family recipe -- for a special hors d’oeuvre, holiday dish or your killer spiked eggnog -- with the folks on your list. By illustrating your email with eye-catching clip art and adding a photo or two of your clan along with the recipe, you’ve created a delicious way to say “Happy Holidays.”